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A MOTHER’S BLESSING

“Just as a tree grows
best when rooted firmly in the earth, so can a pregnant mother feel strong and capable when supported by a
sisterhood of nurturing
friends.”

April Lussier

A Mother’s Blessing, or a Blessing Way, is an intimate gathering for a pregnant woman and her closest female friends and family members, to celebrate her transition into motherhood. Unlike a baby shower, which is often about showering the baby with gifts, a mother’s blessing is about honouring the mother; celebrating her and her journey. It is an opportunity to shower her with love and well wishes, but most importantly nourish her with support that will continue through her fourth trimester. 

WHAT TO EXPECT

Evolving from a traditional Navajo Ceremony, the spiritual intention behind this shared space is to honour the expectant mother, celebrate sisterhood and welcome a new baby to earth.

As the tradition has evolved, so have the activities involved, but would mostly include:

  • Offering words of support for the new mother and baby. 
  • Pampering the mother throughout the day.
  • Celebrating her body with belly painting.
  • Sharing positive birth experiences.
  • Providing a dish for the freezer to help during those weeks after birth. It may be the organiser of the ceremony invites guests to start a meal train in support of the new family post-birth. 
  • Crafting dreamcatchers together to hold the group’s hopes and wishes. 
  • Bringing an object of significance to add to the centre alter. Perhaps a crystal, flowers or a candle.
  • Weaving flower crowns together to wear throughout the ceremony and take home with them afterwards.
  • Writing or illustrating affirmations onto stones.

THE RED THREAD

One of the most significant rituals that takes place during a mother’s blessing is the tying of the red thread. A ball of hemp/string is passed around the group and tied around each of the women’s wrists. The thread joins all the women together, representing the lineage of ancestors that came before them; the matriarchal line. The thread will be worn in support of the pregnant mother, until her baby arrives earth-side, when the thread can be removed. 

THE BIRTHING NECKLACE

Each guest is asked to bring along a bead to be included on the birthing necklace. Each bead symbolises womanhood and transformation and represents the guests wishes for the mother and baby in labour and birth. During the ceremony the beads are strung together, the necklace to be hung in the birth space to give strength and focus during her labour. 

THE CANDLE

Another wonderful keepsake for the guests and symbol of support for the expectant mother is a blessingway candle. Each woman will be gifted a candle to take home with them at the end of the ceremony, which they will light when labour begins. They can leave the candle to burn throughout the duration of labour, sending their collective well wishes for both mother and baby.

There are many ways to mark the day and each ceremony is individual to the woman herself. Some women choose to only include some of these activities, whilst others incorporate many more. The magic of joining together to show up for the expectant mother is that you get to send her on her path to motherhood surrounded with the support of loving friends. 

Have you ever attended a mother’s blessing ceremony? Share your experiences in the comments.

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: MY SECOND BIRTH

SECOND TIME MUM, UNASSISTED HOME BIRTH

Just as with my first pregnancy, my due date came and went. I always told myself not to hang all my hopes on that single date.. but as it passed I couldn’t help but feel impatient. At my 40 week appointment on 1st March 2017, my midwife booked me in for an induction for the 11th March with little discussion. Her reason for this was that “it gets booked up quick”, so better book me a slot. I was furious with how blasé she was. I had made it clear I did not want to be induced and to be booked in only 10 days past my due date, I just didn’t feel heard. 

At that same appointment I was told my baby was head down and partly engaged – which made the induction date seem even more unnecessary. I went home feeling frustrated. That induction date hung over my head for days. I wasn’t getting any niggles or signs of labour yet and was dreading the prospect of my labour being interfered with. 

We walked a lot over those next few days! I was dragging Jack (my partner) & Elba (my eldest daughter who was just over 2.5 years at the time) out for walks everyday and bouncing on my birth ball at every opportunity. 

I toyed with the idea of a home birth during my pregnancy, but we opted for another hospital birth this time because I really felt I had such a positive experience the first time; I’d felt safe and things had gone exactly how I’d wanted. Naively, I thought that by keeping the hospital as my choice of place to give birth, I’d be able to have a similar experience. Of course, no two births are the same!

GOING INTO LABOUR

On Sunday 5th March (40+4) I had a familiar, dull period-like pain coming and going all day. During the night the pains were coming more frequently and I was sure something was happening. It didn’t feel very established, so I took myself to bed to get some rest, assuming I’d be woken by labour at some point during the night. This wasn’t the case. I woke up in the morning to nothing! Any discomfort I was feeling had completely stopped. During that morning, I was pretty sure my waters were trickling. I popped a pad in and went about my day. We chose not to contact the hospital as I worried I’d be given a countdown to induction and didn’t want to be given a time limit for my birth to happen spontaneously.

We chose not to contact the hospital as I worried I’d be given a countdown to induction.

I walked with a friend that lunchtime. My waters were still very lightly trickling and I was feeling a lot of pressure in between my legs. Once I returned home, at about 3.30pm, the tightenings and period-like pains returned. I decided it was time to speak to the hospital. My mum drove down to be with Elba and we went in to be assessed at 5.30pm. At this point I was experiencing irregular contractions.

BEING ASSESSED

After arriving at the hospital my waters gushed. It was such an odd feeling and so unfamiliar. During my first labour my waters didn’t break until the last moment and I was already in the pool.

I was very briefly assessed by a student midwife around 6pm, who listened-in to baby and felt my tummy. She confirmed I was experiencing contractions, which I obviously already knew! She said she wouldn’t internally examine me because my waters had gone, so I was at higher risk of infection. I was a little surprised by this. Usually they are keen to perform VE’s to get an idea of how things are progressing (despite this being unreliable). Nevertheless, I was happy to not be poked and prodded too much during my visit!

The student midwife then told me I wasn’t in established labour because my contractions weren’t regular enough yet; to go home, take a bath and have something to eat. Then, of course, told me I’d have to come back in the morning for an induction if nothing had progressed further by then. I was adamant my baby would be here before the following morning! 

ARRIVING HOME

As we left my surges were getting stronger. Even by the time we reached the car park I was having to stop and breathe through them. We followed her advice and headed home anyway! The journey home was pretty horrendous. Labour came out of nowhere and every bump in the road exacerbated each contraction. We arrived home at 7pm. I was so relieved! 

My mum was in shock to see us home. She’d made some dinner, but I couldn’t stomach anything to eat. I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges. Mum suggested taking off my leggings and shoes, and getting a little more comfortable. I was adamant I’d be going back to hospital soon, so just took off my shoes and stayed fulled clothed. 

I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges.

As my contractions were getting stronger and closer together, I suddenly felt so disheartened. I felt I was not coping with my surges as well as my first labour. Little did I know how close I was to having my baby! Elba was sitting on the sofa just opposite from me at this point. I asked my mum to take her up to bed.

Jack spoke to the hospital again just after 7.30pm. We explained how my labour had progressed substantially since leaving the hospital. They kept firing questions at Jack, who was repeating them to me. I was not in the right frame of mind to be answering questions. I had zoned in; focusing on my body, my breath, the swaying of my hips. They asked Jack if we wanted an ambulance sent out or if we could make the 25 minute journey back to the hospital in the car. I just looked at him. I think my eyes said it all. At this point I had no idea how close together my contractions actually were, I just knew there was no way we were getting back to the hospital in time for our baby’s arrival. 

BABY’S ARRIVAL

I felt calm. Whilst mum took Elba to bed, Jack and I stood in the lounge swaying together. He took my weight as I hung from his shoulders. I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down. When my mum returned I told her felt like I needed a poo, so she helped me into the downstairs toilet. As I pulled down my leggings, the pad I had placed in my pants to catch my waters had a little blood on it. The sight of blood made me feel uneasy. Mum asked Jack to grab some towels from the airing cupboard. I went to the toilet and we laughed as she wiped my bum for the first time since I was a toddler! It still makes me crease just thinking about it.

A second later I felt my baby crowning. 

I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down.

I said “mum, I can feel the head… the head’s there”. 

She said “let me check”. 

I said “No need.. I can feel it!”, as I reached in-between my legs and cupped my hand over the top of the head. A feeling I will never forget. In fact, sometimes now when I place my hand on the top of her head, it takes me back to that moment and I can physically feel how much she has grown. 

I pushed with my next contraction and my baby’s head was born. The rest of her followed very quickly with the next contraction. Two pushes and she arrived earth-side at 8.05pm (an hour after arriving home from the hospital). Jack and my mum held the corners of a towel and created a hammock underneath me, catching her as she arrived.

IN A TANGLE

As I stepped forward, mum wrapped the towel around her. We didn’t know what sex our baby was, but I didn’t even think about checking to find out. I just instantly felt I wanted her skin on mine, but the umbilical cord was trailing between my legs to where she was behind me. I still had my leggings around my ankles so I had to untangle myself! Mum was right… maybe I should have taken them off! 

I stripped off my clothes and mum passed her to me through my legs. I brought her up to my chest… and then she cried. What an amazing sound to know that she was ok. Jack and my mum wrapped us both in towels as I sat and cuddled her. I beamed as I realised I had another beautiful daughter. 

THE THIRD STAGE

I sat naked, holding my little Wren for half an hour before the paramedics arrived. They checked us both over and allowed us to wait another half an hour for the placenta to be born. This didn’t seem to be happening naturally. I was eager to get her straight on my breast to encourage a physiological third stage. She took a couple of minutes to work it out. Perhaps she was a little shocked after her speedy arrival!

After an hour, they suggested going to the hospital for a managed third stage, which I accepted. By this stage I just wanted to get cleaned up and my bum was numb from sitting on the floor! Jack cut the cord, it was completely white! Amazing! We were put in the ambulance. Wren laid on my chest for the duration of the journey to hospital with her eyes wide, staring into mine. 

My birth didn’t go how I thought it was going to, but it was the most empowering experience of my life. To birth unassisted, calmly and in control, feels incredible! In hind sight, I should have given more thought into preparing and planning a home birth, but I am grateful I had a completely undisturbed birth and it was very telling for how in times like that, instinct takes over.

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?

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ELIMINATION COMMUNICATION

Elimination communication (EC) is a practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant’s need to eliminate waste.

This isn’t magic, it just means paying close attention to your baby’s signals and using your intuition to guide them when they need to go to the toilet. Over time, your baby learns to hold it and signal to you when they need to go. It isn’t something that is widely practiced in Western cultures and in fact, we potty train our children relatively late compared to other cultures. But are we missing a vital chance at communicating with our babies and supporting them in expelling their waste? Here I share my experiences of practicing EC with my babies and how to go about giving it a go yourself.

MY EXPERIENCE

I practiced EC with both of my girls. This wasn’t something that took huge amounts of planning, it was something that the women in my family had done through generations so, in fact, it felt completely natural to me.

Having three younger siblings (the youngest of which is 16 years younger than me) I had witnessed first hand how babies give us cues when they need to go to the toilet. It wasn’t until I had my own children, that I asked my mum when it was that I should start placing my daughter on the potty or toilet. My mum simply told me what she had been told by her own mum when she had asked the same question when I was a baby, “as soon as she can sit up”. In fact, during a conversation with my grandmother later on, she told me how she used to hold my mum on the potty before she could sit up unaided. 

The whole thing felt like the most natural way to respond to my baby’s needs. We always had lots off nappy-off time in those early days and weeks anyway, so I was quickly able to pick up on my daughters’ individual cues. I started simply by placing each of my daughters’ on the potty at every single nappy change so they started to associate that time with eliminating waste. Each time they would go, we would be really encouraging and offer lots of praise. Yay for potty parties!

All babies and toddlers are different, so their cues will be too, and the length of time it takes for each child will vary. My eldest was dry by 13 months during the day, 20 months at night and my youngest daughter was dry at 14 months during the day, 15 months at night. Throughout both of my journey’s I didn’t ever put too much pressure on night time toileting. I was already waking to breastfeed regularly and just didn’t want to throw another thing into the mix. I also didn’t want to stress about night time because as such little babies they don’t have the ability to wake themselves to expel waste. So I always put a nappy on my girls through the night, until they consistently had dry nights, then I removed the nappy completely. 

HOW TO PRACTICE EC WITH YOUR BABY

You’ll quickly notice that your baby has a routine and will eliminate waste at similar times of the day, usually first thing in the morning or after waking from a nap. These are great times to offer the toilet or the potty instead of letting them go in their nappy and then changing them afterwards. It’s really great practice to remove the nappy completely as early as possible, but ensure they are wearing a pair of pants or trousers, so that they can become familiar with the feeling of wearing something, but still recognising when they want to go to the toilet. I started by just doing this whilst we were at home to avoid too many accidents happening outside the house. Cues to look out for include:

  • Squirming
  • Grunting
  • Sudden change of expression
  • Stillness – indicating concentration 
  • Kicking/tapping leg
  • Fidgeting

When you are ready to take the plunge and go nappy-less outside of the house (again the sooner the better to avoid too much confusion for the child), I’d recommend:

  • Packing a few extra clothes just in case you miss a cue or don’t make it to a toilet in time. 
  • Carrying a potty with you at all times. Click here for my favourite travel potty, which is discreet and easy to transport. 
  • Don’t stress! There are more distractions when you leave the house, which could lead to the odd accident here and there.
  • Be prepared to have accidents. It’s not a step backwards, it’s all part of learning.

I think the important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to practice elimination communication. Ultimately it comes down to what works for you and your family. You can do it full time or part time, from birth or a couple of months old. Click here to check out the Go Diaper Free website, which is full of information and tips on how to get started. 

WHY PRACTICE EC?

There are many pros to practicing elimination communication with your baby. Firstly, your environmental impact is reduced drastically. An estimated three billion nappies end up in landfill every year in the UK (8 million a day) accounting for 3-4% of household waste. By removing nappies earlier, you are reducing the amount of waste produced. Nappies take approx 500 years to decompose! Every catch is a huge win if it keeps even one nappy out of landfill. 

Additionally, it saves you money because you aren’t purchasing anywhere near as many nappies. Even if you chose to use cloth nappies, you still have the cost (and energy usage) of additional washing and replacing as your baby grows. 

Finally, for me the biggest pro of practicing elimination communication was that early connection with my babies. From those early days you build a close connection and are able to communicate on a different level, responding to their cues and learning together. As with everything else I have done whilst raising them, it was completely baby-led. I think the difference in waiting until a child is 2 or 3 years old is that you may face a lot of resistance and frustration, as they have been taught to ignore toileting signals, go in a nappy and wait to be cleaned afterwards. Being potty trained as a toddler they are having the relearn a toileting habit they have known since birth.

Q&A

Sharing questions submitted through instagram when I spoke LIVE with fellow Doula and Birth Keeper, Saima (@livewildbirthfree). If you have any further questions, please submit them via the comments section at the bottom of the post. 

Do you have any tips for boys?

I don’t personally have any experience practicing EC with boys, but I have spoken with those that have and they haven’t mentioned anything specifically different to an EC journey with a girl. The only thing that may effect it slightly is that boys develop slightly slower in certain areas than girls do, so it may take them slightly longer to crack it. That being said, it is all about noticing those early cues, which boys will signal too. So as long as you are noticing those cues, it really shouldn’t be all that different. 

I think the important thing to remember is the all EC journeys are different regardless of gender. 

How do I deal with frustrated family members that are trying to help?

Patience is a huge part of EC, but I think it is important to remember that you as the parent are going to be the only one that is fully in tune with your baby as you spend the most time learning their cues. I would start by talking to your frustrated family members and express your gratitude for their support with your choice to toilet train your baby early, share with them the cues you have noticed and when/how often to offer the potty/toilet. Finally, explain how accidents are part of the process and to not worry too much about it. 

How do you tackle the night time?

I didn’t ever put too much pressure on potty training at night time, as a baby doesn’t have the ability to recognise it needs to go whilst asleep. I always made sure my babies went to the toilet before bed and I also adopted the dream wee method! This simply meant, at some point during the night (usually as I went up to bed for the night) I’d lift them out of their bed, place them on the toilet and allow them to empty their bladder (or bowel sometimes!) whilst they were still asleep. It would help them to stay dry through the night as they learnt to hold it for longer periods.

I plan to return to work after a year, how do I get the support from a nursery?

Whatever stage you choose to send your child to a childcare setting, they are usually very supportive when it comes to your potty training wants and needs. I think for many nursery’s they would prefer children out of nappies as soon as possible, some settings don’t actually take children before they are potty trained anyway. But equally, it could be that the nursery don’t have the ability to respond to one child’s EC needs as they have many children at a time. I would recommend discussing it with the nursery of your choosing, providing them with the equipment they’ll need (potty, wipes, spare clothes) and inform them the cues to look out for. Usually children have cracked their EC journey between 9-18 months, so it could be that your child will be confident in their toileting habits by the time nursery comes around. 

Getting support with your EC journey

As part of my postnatal care package I offer support with elimination communication. This includes but is not limited to:

  • How to hold baby over the toilet/potty
  • Best positions to ensure comfort for both you and your baby
  • Preparing equipment for your journey
  • What cues to look out for and how to notice them
  • Listening to your frustrations
  • Providing you with evidenced-based information 

Click here to view my full postnatal package and how I could support you during your fourth trimester. 

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: ELLIE

FIRST TIME MUM, BIRTH CENTRE, VAGINAL BIRTH

During her pregnancy Ellie invested time in preparing for her birth, enrolling on a hypnobirthing course, which led to her feeling confident and excited to birth her baby. Since becoming a mum, Ellie has trained and a Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Teacher to share her wisdom and encourage others to take control of their birth. You can find out more about her and her amazing courses here.

Below, she shares the story of her daughter’s arrival at 39 weeks.

“Since doing my hypnobirthing course, I felt confident heading into my birth. I even felt quite excited. I finished work and started maternity leave 2 weeks before my official “due date” and had spent the past week washing baby clothes, folding and putting them away (and re-folding and re-putting away – god knows why?!), batch cooking and general tidying and pottering. 

I woke up on April 6th 2016 to a message in my NCT WhatsApp chat, that the second baby of the group had been born overnight. My feelings of happiness for my friend were quickly overshadowed by jealousy and intense impatience. When was my baby going to come out? Looking back – this was crazy, I was still a week from my due date! (With the hindsight of both of my birth experience, impatience is definitely one of my signs that something is afoot – baby is having ideas.)

I went about my day as normal, pottering away and cooking the final few meals to put in the freezer. The only thing that I had noticed that day was that my Braxton hicks had completely stopped. I had been having quite a lot of Braxton hicks in the week prior to this day, but I hadn’t felt any all day. This only made me think that things had slowed down and I would be waiting sometime before my baby made their appearance. Little did I know!

OUT FOR DINNER

That evening we went to meet my friend and her partner for dinner. As soon as I got out of the car, I felt a twinge. I ignored it. A few minutes later I felt another. I ignored that one too. These twinges continued, coming every few minutes and I continued to ignore them and carried on with my dinner and catching up with my friend. I didn’t let on to anyone what I was feeling and carried on chatting away and munching on my Nandos. 

About an hour into the meal things felt to have ramped up a bit and the sensations felt more like tightenings now. I also had the distinct feeling that I was going to poo myself. However, whenever I went to the toilet nothing happened. I eventually told Joe what I was feeling and he suggested we go home. But I hadn’t had pudding yet so I wasn’t leaving! We leisurely finished our meal and said goodbye to our pals and drove home.

FINDING COMFORT

Once home, I got into bed hoping that I would fall asleep. However, my surges were still coming fairly frequently (between 3 and 4 minutes). They were also getting more intense so I decided to get out of bed and spend some time on my birth ball, bouncing on it and then kneeling on the floor and leaning over it. 

I found the bath absolutely amazing! The feeling of the warm water was incredibly comforting…

It had now been about 4 – 5 hours of experiencing surges which had been fairly frequent from the start. Their duration was getting longer and the intensity continued to gradually increase. I decided I wanted a bath and Joe ran one for me. I found the bath absolutely amazing! The feeling of the warm water was incredibly comforting and I felt completely relaxed with just candles for light and joe stroking my arms when I was experiencing a surge. I started using my breathing techniques with each surge which I also found incredibly soothing.

Sometime later, Joe rang the birth centre to let them know that I was experiencing surges and thought I was in labour. I spoke to the midwife who listened to me breathe through one of my surges. She asked me if I felt I was handling the sensations and I told her that I was. The breathing and the bath were helping me through each surge. So she advised us to stay at home. Fine by me!

I continued to relax in the bath but after some time I started feeling like I wanted to move around so I went back into my bedroom to bounce on my birth ball and listen to my hypnobirthing relaxations. Joe had lit some candles in the bedroom and turned the lights down really low so it felt lovely and calm. 

Over the next couple of hours, my surges started to get a bit closer together. I was having one every 3 minutes (almost on the dot) and they were lasting for just under a minute. I started to get a bit worried about getting to the birth centre on time! I remember being told that this is when we should ideally head to the birth centre, so Joe called in again. Again, I spoke to the midwife who asked what the surges felt like. I explained that I was handling them fine with my breathing techniques and going between the bath and my bedroom to bounce on the birth ball. The midwife told me that I would ‘know’ when to come in and to try to stay at home for as long as possible. So I continued to do my thing, relaxing in the bath until I felt the urge to get up and move around.

HEADING TO THE BIRTH CENTRE

By about 4.30am, I decided I wanted to go to the birth centre. So Joe called again to say that we intended on coming in and they agreed that this was sensible since we had already called twice before. I got dressed and Joe called my mum to ask her to drive over (she was my second birth partner).

The car journey was peaceful driving through Bristol in the dead of night. We saw a fox cross the road ahead of us just after we set off from home and for some reason, I took this as a positive omen. 

We got to the birth centre at 5.50am and we were showed to our gorgeous room. Cossham Birth Centre is incredible. I call it the “baby hotel” because that’s exactly what it feels like. Our room was beautifully spacious with dim lighting, a double bed, a gorgeous pool and an en-suite bathroom. As soon as I got into the room, I had the urge to take my clothes off and walk around, stopping and swaying and leaning on Joe when I felt a surge. 

My midwife asked me if she could do a vaginal examination and I politely declined. I asked if I could get into the birth pool and the midwife told me that I couldn’t unless she could examine me to confirm that I was in established labour (grrrr!). I still didn’t want an examination so we filled the pool up a little bit so that it felt like a bath and I continued to breath through my surges.

I kept feeling like I needed to do a poo so I spent some time in the toilet. Whilst I was sat there, I felt the sensations change to an incredible pressure inside bearing down on my bum. This caught me off guard and I called for the midwife who came in to check on me. She asked again to perform an examination and this time I agreed as I really wanted to be in the pool. 

Sometimes dilation happens like that – very gradually and then all of a sudden just snaps back like an elastic band. 

She told me that I was 5cm dilated. I remember feeling quite disappointed at this. I had been experiencing sensations for about 11 hours at this point and they felt to be getting really intense. I had hoped I would be further along. 

The midwife suggested that I try walking around which could break my waters which she told me could help ease the feeling of pressure I was feeling. She also offered me some paracetamol (even though I had asked in my birth preferences not to be offered any pain relief unless I asked for it – second grrrrr!). Despite this, I took them. Looking back I’m not even sure why, as I had been handling the sensations fine with my breathing alone. 

I continued to pace the room leaning on Joe for support until, fairly soon after, my waters went. At this stage everything ramped up very quickly. I felt I needed to stop moving and get settled somewhere. I wanted to be upright so I decided to kneel on the bed leaning over the back of it. I was feeling the urge to push. 

My midwife asked to examine me again and, reluctantly, I agreed. She told me I was 10cm and that baby would be here very soon! She also explained that sometimes dilation happens like that – very gradually and then all of a sudden just snaps back like an elastic band. 

TRANSITION

I got back into my position on the bed (since we wouldn’t have time now to fill the pool up). With each surge, I felt my body instinctively moving the baby down. During this second stage, I could feel my baby’s head moving back and forth. With each surge I felt them move right down but then, the wave would pass and the baby’s head would retreat back inside. I found this incredibly difficult and it was then that I started to feel myself coming out of my relaxed state. I started exclaiming that I couldn’t do it. But with the next surge, my baby’s head was born and on the next, the rest of her followed.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My proudest achievement.

Poppy was born at 7.50am (just 2 hours after arriving at the birth centre) on 7th April 2016 to two delighted parents and an ecstatic grandmother.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My proudest achievement. I was left feeling like Superwoman and like I could do absolutely anything and I genuinely believe that, had you asked me to, in that moment I could have.” 

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?

If so, pop an email over to info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk, I’d love to hear from you.

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LETS TALK ABOUT FREE BLEEDING

I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source for our life species.

Rupi Kaur

Following a recent poll over on Instagram it became clear many of you wanted to know more about free bleeding. I know what some of you may be thinking… free bleeding? Why?! Why would anyone want to free bleed when there is an array of products on offer to catch our flow? In an earlier blog post I explored the menstrual cup and how beneficial it is for many reasons (if you haven’t checked it out yet you can do so here), but now I want to talk about free bleeding. 

Free bleeding is becoming increasingly popular for many different reasons, and there are many brands that are making it easier for us to choose that as an option by creating wonderful, comfortable and amazingly discreet period pants

I am going to discuss the benefits of switching it up and allowing your flow to, well… flow freely! 

WHAT IS FREE BLEEDING?

There might be some of you that are still unsure as to what free bleeding actually is, or what it entails. Well, it is exactly as it sounds.. removing menstrual products during your period. Now, some choose to wear their normal underwear and be open about their time of the month, but for others the pace of life, societal pressures and/or comfort means they opt for period pants. This keeps things dry and comfortable. Either way, no menstrual products are obstructing the flow of blood from the vagina during menstruation.

WHY FREE BLEED?

It may be hard for some to understand why. There is such a taboo around periods; often seen as dirty and unclean. The truth is, period blood is no dirtier than any other blood that leaves our bodies and in fact, it is full of stem cells and antibacterial hemoglobin peptides; which support the balance of the natural bacteria in the vagina. This is disrupted when we insert anything into our vagina, especially bleached products that absorb all the moisture in there, putting us at risk of infections or vaginal dryness.

In many cultures, the period is seen as sacred and rituals are held to celebrate this wonderful sign of fertility; a time where we regenerate, renew and release. For some, free bleeding is a way to tune into their body, to be intuitive and connect on another level. For others it is the best way to avoid any harmful chemicals coming into contact with the vagina and for a growing number of people, they don’t have a choice. One in ten cannot afford to buy sanitary products and during the pandemic, period poverty has surged in the UK with charities supplying six times the usual amount to people without access to period products. Some choose to free bleed to raise awareness of this. 

“It would have been way too uncomfortable to worry about a tampon for 26.2 miles… I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist.”

Kiran Gandhi, Musician

THE BENEFITS

Well, if you opt for the au naturel approach its completely free (minus the cost of washing soiled underwear/clothing/bedding) but even if you invest in a pair of period pants, you are saving so much money in the long run. In your lifetime you spend just shy of £5k on sanitary products but you can pick up a pair of period pants for an average of £15-£25 (granted, you’ll probably have to purchase a few pairs to rotate, but regardless you’ll still be saving money over time) and they can be washed and reused again and again. 

Which leads me onto the next benefit, free bleeding reduces your environmental impact. Disposable products have horrific effects on the planet, as you can probably imagine, by switching to reusable pants or ditching period products all together, you are doing your bit to alleviate that pressure on the earth. 

Period pants are also super comfortable. They are slim-fitting, designed using textile technologies that wick away moisture, trap smells, absorb the flow & create a leak-resistant barrier. Unlike pads (that literally feel like a nappy; thick, uncomfortable and full of toxic materials and chemicals) you do not feel like you are wearing anything other than ordinary underwear. By free bleeding straight into perfectly designed pants, you feel clean and dry for the duration of your period whilst avoiding chemicals like rayon (a highly absorbent synthetic material used in tampons), which not only stops your flow and interferes with the natural journey of those wonderful antibacterial hemoglobin peptides I mentioned earlier, but also soaks up everything, including cervical fluids, altering the amount of fluid your vagina produces during the rest of your cycle. Free bleeding keeps usual secretions in place. You can wear period pants for up to 24 hours, depending on your flow and most pants hold an average fo 2-3 tampons worth of blood, which is just so convenient!

Finally, period underwear takes away any anxiety around leaking, forgetting to change or running out of sanitary products. As you are able to wear them for so long, it is easy to fit your period into your plans without the added worry. By allowing your period to flow you also eliminate the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which is another anxiety we can all do without. 

we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less normal than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.

Rupi Kaur

Hopefully that answers all your musings around free bleeding. If there is anything else you’d like to know, please leave a comment…

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BIRTHING YOUR PLACENTA

WHAT IS THE THIRD STAGE?

The third stage is defined by the birth of the placenta shortly after the baby is born. During the birth of the placenta you will experience uterine contractions as the placenta separates from the uterus wall, moves through the cervix and, when it has moved down far enough, you will work with a final contraction to push and get the placenta the rest of the way out.

As third stage often gets little mention in pregnancy books, lets discuss how protecting the third stage environment, as we do with our birthing environment, may encourage a faster, natural delivery of the placenta, reducing the need for intervention or an ‘actively managed’ third stage.

For the new mother, the third stage is a time of reaping the rewards of her labour

Dr Sarah Buckley, Gentle Birth Gentle Mothering

THE PLACENTA

(noun) A flattened circular organ in the uterus of pregnant eutherian mammals, nourishing and maintaining the foetus through the umbilical cord.

When you become pregnant, your uterus contains just a cluster of cells. Half of those go on to become your baby and the other half become the placenta. The placenta is a temporary organ that is attached to the wall of the uterus throughout pregnancy. It performs many functions including providing nutrients, oxygen and protection against harmful bacteria via the umbilical cord. More or less anything you consume will pass to your baby via the placenta, which is why toxins should be kept to a minimum during pregnancy.

The placenta also disposes of the baby’s waste, such as carbon dioxide, which passes back up the umbilical cord to your blood stream where your body disposes of it.

Put simply, the placenta serves as the baby’s lifeline during the 40ish weeks in the womb. It is amazing and should be recognised for it’s vital role!

PHYSIOLOGY OF THE THIRD STAGE

During pregnancy, most women often spend lots of time making plans for their birth and deciding what birth preferences suit them most, but often the third stage is forgotten about or generally not given much thought. In many hospitals now, it is routine to have an actively managed third stage which means as your baby is born you are given an intramuscular injection of a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone oxytocin. Some women may not have a preference whether or not they have an actively managed or a physiological (natural) third stage (see below for pros and cons) but for those that do, its good to know what things could help the third stage progress so that you are able to protect the ‘golden hour’ and deliver the placenta naturally.

As mentioned above, oxytocin continues to play a huge role during the third stage. Oxytocin is a very shy hormone and there are things within the environment that can cause adrenaline to spike and for oxytocin levels to decrease, which will slow uterine contractions. In order to keep a good hormonal balance it is important to continue to protect the birthing space.

BREASTFEEDING AND SKIN-TO-SKIN

Initialising that first feed encourages the release of oxytocin, but if your baby doesn’t show signs of wanting to breastfeed straight away, just holding her close to your chest will have a similar effect.

MOTHERS COMFORT

Maintaining the environment of the birth space with low lights, warmth and no observers encourages the mother to feel comfortable and, in turn, speeds up the duration of a natural third stage.

Stimulation of the breasts causes a powerful endocrine hormone called oxytocin to be released. Oxytocin in turn stimulates uterine contractions.

Ina May Gaskin, Spiritual Midwifery

PHYSIOLOGICAL MANAGEMENT

  • Encourages a calm, quiet and undisturbed atmosphere allowing you to be present with your new baby.
  • Allows time for bonding through breastfeeding and skin-to-skin.
  • You can adopt different positions and move instinctively with your body.
  • Physiological management is less likely if labour has been induced or required pain management and intervention, as the administration of synthetic oxytocin will inhibit your ability to produce your own oxytocin.
  • It can take some time for the placenta to deliver naturally (time which is less likely to be allowed for in a hospital setting) and just as with earlier phases of labour emotional and environmental factors could delay it; such as a change in lighting, temperature or a feeling of being observed.

ACTIVE MANAGEMENT

  • The process is quicker than a physiological third stage, lasting 5-15 minutes. After synthetic oxytocin is administered the placenta needs to be delivered quickly to avoid retained placenta.
  • In the event of the placenta taking a long time to deliver, it will have to be removed manually under general anaesthetic.
  • You may experience discomfort when the midwife performs the controlled cord traction (CCT), which is performed after you receive synthetic oxytocin via an intramuscular injection. A CCT involves the midwife placing her hand on your abdomen so that she can feel when the uterus contacts. She will then pull gently on the cord whilst applying pressure to the uterus.
  • It can be uncomfortable as you will most likely be asked to lay on the bed in a semi-reclined position so that the midwife can carry out the CCT.

DELAYED CORD CLAMPING

Another thing very injurious to the child is the tying and the cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta which ought to have been in the child.

Darwin, 1801

For many years immediate clamping of the umbilical cord (between 10-15 seconds) after birth has been standard practice. There is now evidence to suggest that it is beneficial to allow the cord to fully pulsate before clamping for the following reasons:

  • The cord and placenta hold up to 30% of the baby’s blood. Allowing the cord to pulsate means the blood can flow through it and aid the baby’s lung expansion. When the cord is clamped immediately, blood has to be “borrowed” from the rest of the baby’s circulation in order for the lungs to be fully functioning (even though the baby’s other organs also need blood to start functioning).
  • As the baby receives the full amount of blood from the placenta, iron levels are higher and it reduces the chances of anaemia. Anaemia in infants can go on to effect the development of the nervous system and brain development.
  • Delaying the clamping of the cord allows the baby to receive up to a billion more stem cells than if it were to be clamped immediately after birth. Stem cells have wonderful healing qualities.
  • Birth weight will be increased and blood pressure stabilised after delayed cord clamping.
  • If resuscitation is required after the baby is born it is beneficial to leave the cord unclamped as it assists in oxygenating the lungs.
  • It has been suggested that the baby’s cord stump will take less time to heal and ‘drop off’ after delayed cord clamping.

BENEFITTING FROM YOUR PLACENTA

The placenta is becoming increasingly recognised for the important role it plays in post-birth healing. According to the Placenta Remedies Network “during and after a normal vaginal delivery (including post-natal bleeding) a new mother will lose between 1/8 to 1/10 of her body’s blood supply. Losing a large amount of iron so quickly can cause anaemia, leaving a new mum feeling tired, faint and exhausted. The blood needs high supplies of iron to carry oxygen to the cells. Low supplies of oxygen leave your cells starving and less able to heal after trauma.”

Consuming your placenta, which is rich in iron, restores your iron levels reducing fatigue. Blood loss during the postnatal period stems from the wound in the uterus where the placenta was attached and can last for 3-6 weeks. Consuming your placenta can reduce postpartum blood loss to 5-10 days because the placenta is full of stem cells and growth factors, which play a huge role in healing the wound in your uterus. Your placenta also aids the replenishment of vitamins E and B6, is rich in hormones such as oxytocin and corticotropin and immune boosting proteins. In addition to reducing the duration of postpartum blood loss, all of the wonderful nutrients in your placenta contribute to encouraging a plentiful milk supply, boosting energy levels and balancing hormone levels reducing the chances of “baby blues” and postnatal depression.

Your placenta can be made into numerous different remedies which include:

  • Raw placenta smoothie
  • Placenta Encapsulation
  • Tincture
  • Essence
  • Homeopathic Remedies
  • Creams or balms

There is growing interest both in the placenta as an extraordinary organ which nourishes the baby during pregnancy, and the rituals surrounding it in other cultures.

AIMS, Birthing Your Placenta

MAKING A THIRD STAGE PLAN

It can be very beneficial to include your wishes for the third stage in your birth plan. You have the right to an empowered third stage too. Things to consider for a physiological third stage:

  • State that you’d like to try for a natural placenta delivery. Keep the birth space protected – dimly lit, comfortable temperature.
  • Allow time for the cord to finish pulsating before clamping.
  • Immediate skin-to-skin with your new baby.
  • Put your baby to your breast. Try to initiate the first feed. Keep things calm and undisturbed.
  • State if you want to wait for newborn checks and weighing.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask to see the placenta once it has been delivered. If you want to take it home to benefit from placenta remedies ensure you state this in your birth plan and have your birth partner discuss plans with your midwife upon arrival.

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: MY FIRST BIRTH

FIRST TIME MUM, WATER BIRTH, VAGINAL BIRTH

Join me as I share my first birth experience. I feel so fortunate to have achieved the birth that I wanted, but now refrain from saying how ‘lucky’ I was and instead acknowledge the time and effort I put into educating myself during pregnancy. I worked hard to achieve my positive birth experience. I knew what I wanted, explored my options and informed myself so that I was prepared in the event that things didn’t go to ‘plan’. Read my full story below.

“I was 6 days overdue. Although I tried not to hang everything on the due date, as it came and went I immediately felt impatient and more eager than ever for things to get going. I tried everything to get labour going – long walks, bouncing on my birthing ball, sex.. but nothing worked! On the 5th day, my partner, Jack, made me an extremely hot curry for dinner. I have no idea if the baby was always planning to make an appearance the following day, but its nice to think that he got things moving!

That night (around 12.30am) I woke with a dull ache at the bottom of my back, which felt very much like period pains. By 2am it felt like a surge of pain and I was sure I was experiencing contractions, so I woke Jack. We started timing my contractions from this point and they were only lasting about 30 seconds, but coming quite regularly (between 3-4 minutes). We spoke to a midwife at the hospital, but decided to stay at home for a little while longer.

TRANSFERRING TO HOSPITAL

By 8am my contractions were regular and lasting a minute each. It was important to me that I laboured at home for as long as possible. I felt comfortable there and the last thing I wanted was to be sent home from the hospital for not being in established labour. I felt as little travelling as possible was best to keep my labour moving. We finally headed to the hospital at 10.30am and at this point I was already grateful to have my mum there as an additional birth partner – Jack drove, whilst she sat in the back of the car with me and massaged my back the whole way to the hospital. I remember feeling a rush of excitement as we left the house to go to the hospital. It was actually happening! The journey to the hospital was about 25 minutes and throughout I just fixated on my breath, going inward and tuning into my body, instead of worrying or thinking about the journey.

Three generations emerging.. grandmother, mother, daughter on her way.

Upon arrival at the hospital I was asked if I wanted a VE. At this point I was intrigued to know how far along I was, so consented to being examined. I was told I was 5cm dilated. This was the first and last VE I had during my labour, I didn’t feel it was necessary to at any other point.

I wanted to be left to labour on my own with my chosen birth partners during the first stage.

I was adamant I wanted an unmedicated birth, with the exception of gas & air, so made it clear to my midwife that I didn’t want to be offered any pain relief. They moved me to the birth suite at around 12.30pm, where I waited for the birth pool to be prepared. During this time I laboured bent over the bed, moving with each contraction. My midwife popped in and introduced herself properly at this point, but I had stated on my birth plan that I wanted to be left to labour on my own with just my chosen birth partners during the first stage, which she totally respected, leaving us well alone and just coming in occasionally to listen in to the baby’s heartbeat. I hated this every time! I really didn’t want my tummy being touched during labour. At the time, despite all the prep that I had done, I was not aware I could decline this. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have consented as it made me so uncomfortable. Always remember you don’t have to consent to anything you don’t want to do. Your body, your choice. 

GETTING IN THE POOL

Just before I got into the pool I made the decision to start using gas & air.  Up until now I had used breathing techniques and massage to cope with my surges. I requested the room be made as dark as possible as I was feeling extremely sensitive to bright lights. I felt grateful they made this happen, closing all curtains and turning off the lights, leaving only the lights from the birthing pool to light the room. As I got into the water, I felt so relaxed. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, in between contractions, sitting up in the water. After I had been in the water for an hour or so (timings become a bit blurry by this point), my midwife asked me to get out of the water to empty my bladder. This is where I suddenly felt the urge to push. I think getting up and out of the water encouraged baby to move down further. Shortly after getting back into the pool, my waters broke and all contractions blurred into one. I remember thinking that I was never going to get the baby out.. ah transition!

This was the hardest part and the only time throughout that I had a negative thought. It felt like I was pushing forever! Every time I felt baby’s head move down with a contraction, it would go back up again when I stopped pushing! 

At 5.10pm our baby was born and immediately placed onto my chest. I was in awe of my body and this tiny person that had just arrived earth-side. Jack was sat behind me, leaning over my shoulder, when he announced to me that we had a baby girl. I couldn’t believe it; I was overwhelmed, grateful and so proud of us both.

After delaying for as long as the hospital would allow, Jack cut the cord and I moved out of the water quite quickly after for the third stage. It was here, on the bed, where Elba – our new baby girl – fed from me for the first time. She was amazing, latching straight away! Breastfeeding was everything I imagined it would be. I felt that instant bond between us.”

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?

If so pop an email over to info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk, I’d love to hear from you.

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES

FIRST TIME MUM, HOSPITAL, VAGINAL BIRTH

This first time mum has anonymously shared her story of a birth that didn’t go quite as she thought it would, but how she was able to navigate a positive experience by remaining the decision maker throughout the process. See below for her full story.

“I’m a paediatrician who gave birth at the hospital I work at (so knew most of the midwifery, paeds and O&G team). I didn’t make a birth “plan” as have seen enough things go wrong to know you can’t control it, but I did have “preferences” – not on the bed, ideally not monitored, water for plain relief, hypnobirthing breathing techniques.

My labour was spontaneous but complicated by prolonged rupture of membranes. I was in established labour by 24h so didn’t need induction, but they wouldn’t allow me to labour at the birth centre.

The negatives of my delivery were that I cried hysterically when my husband wasn’t allowed in hospital with me initially, which I’m convinced slowed things down. I couldn’t use the pool because it was in use, and I had one puff of gas and air and nearly vomited.

However, I had a really positive experience overall. I had two absolutely amazing midwives who supported me completely in decision making.

I wasn’t sure what to do about pain relief because I couldn’t use the pool or tolerate the gas and air and although I’d got to 9cm with hypnobirthing breathing techniques I really needed something as was shattered after being awake for around 32 hours. After chatting with the midwife I made the decision to have pethidine 3 hours before he was born, which definitely allowed me a couple of hours to build my strength before pushing.

“The helped to guide me through a wonderfully peaceful, natural delivery”

I also declined continuous monitoring although it would definitely have been easier for them. They accepted this and did intermittent monitoring with a handheld Doppler instead.

Most of all they helped to guide me through a wonderfully peaceful natural delivery without over medicalising things.

Looking back I’m not sure I would have changed anything other than my husband being able to come straight in with me (we had such a good team approach to managing contractions at home that I struggled to cope without him). Although I didn’t want to be on delivery suite my birth wasn’t “medicalised” unnecessarily and the midwives were just amazing. It wasn’t the birth I had imagined but it was wonderful and I left hospital with a beautiful baby boy and an enormous sense of achievement! I’m hopeful I will be blessed with more children in the future and would love to have a similarly peaceful and empowering experience, wherever I end up giving birth.”

Do you have a positive birth experience you’d like to share?

If so, please email me at info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk

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BIRTHING AT HOME

There are many benefits to birthing at home, but it is still often seen as a controversial choice. 

Despite many believing it’s the more risky choice, birthing at home completely supports the physiology of birth. Those that choose to birth at home have a much higher chance of achieving a natural, physiological birth with much less chance of medical intervention. According to a systematic review and meta-analyses by The Lancet (2018) the outcomes for babies being birthed at home (by those who intended to birth at home) showed no difference to those birthed in a hospital setting and for the mother, the outcomes were improved in a home birth setting. 

It is apparent that intervention in birth leads to more intervention, and you could say that the transfer from your home into the hospital is the first intervention for most birthing people. To leave your home, a place where you are familiar, safe and unobserved, to enter into a bright, sterile hospital surrounded by strangers is disturbing the process, no matter how smooth the transition goes. 

BENEFITS OF A HOME BIRTH

You have the undivided attention of your community/independent midwife as unlike in a birth centre or labour ward, you are the only birthing person around. 

Partners can become more involved; being at home gives you the opportunity to be more intimate (which supports the physiology of birth) as your home enables you to have more privacy. 

Should you choose to, you are free to have siblings assist your birth.

You have the freedom to move about your home, exploring different rooms, finding comfort on the bed, in the bath, in a pool, etc. Being in your own home means you have the freedom to alter the birthing space, creating the perfect environment to support a physiological birth. 

You are at much less risk of infection as your body has already built up a tolerance to the bacteria in your home, creating antibodies to protect you and your baby.

You’re free to eat and drink whatever and whenever you choose during and immediately after labour. 

You have choice who you welcome into your birthing space. In the hospital, people (health professionals, hospital staff) are free to come in and out without warning, interrupting the natural flow of labour. 

It is much less stressful than the logistics of travelling to hospital, worrying about traffic, sorting parking, finding the labour ward, waiting around in Triage, being told you “aren’t far enough along” only to be sent home to do it all over again in a couple of hours. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone that goes to hospital to birth their baby, but it is very common. 

PLANNING YOUR HOME BIRTH

PREPARING THE PERFECT SPACE

There are a few simple things you can do to support and protect your hormones during labour, to ensure your labour progresses as it should. 

Oxytocin (the love hormone) is what makes your uterus contract. When oxytocin is released in abundance, you will experience longer, stronger and more effective surges. It is important to protect the environment in which you are birthing because oxytocin is a shy hormone. If at any point you do not feel safe, protected, undisturbed or unobserved, your oxytocin production can be effected and in-turn, your body will produce heightened levels of adrenaline, causing labour to stall. This is our bodies way of protecting us from harm whilst birthing our babies. 

Things to consider when preparing your birthing space:

  • Lighting – Low lighting encourages privacy, encouraging you to feel safe and unobserved.
  • Temperature – Warmth supports the production of oxytocin.
  • Smell – Scented candles/essential oils in a diffuser can enhance a feeling of calm.
  • Music – What sounds help you to relax?
  • Water – Being immersed in water can calm us. Perhaps the use of a pool or bath.
  • Who are you welcoming into your space? Do they bring the right energy? 
RELIEF & RELAXATION

Below I have created a list of comfort measures to support you during your home birth. These are not all essential but will help you to cope with the process of labour:

  • Hot water bottle for early labour
  • TENS machine
  • Positive Affirmations to stick around your birthing space
  • Create a playlist that will help you feel calm and focused
  • Candles or fairy lights
  • Food & drinks prepared ready when you need
  • Birth ball to keep active and help labour progress
  • Essential oils to use in a diffuser, in the bath or in a massage oil
  • Other complementary therapies; herbal/homeopathic remedies
  • Flannel or ice pack
  • Birth pool and accessories
  • Lip balm
PRACTICAL THINGS FOR YOUR HOME BIRTH

Once again, these aren’t essentials just practical tools to assist your labour.

  • Plastic sheeting to protect floors, sofa and beds
  • Soft coverings such as old sheets or towels
  • Extra old towels 
  • Bin bags for rubbish and washing
  • Flannels and hair ties
  • Container (bowl or bucket) in case you are sick
  • A straw for your drink 
  • Food/drinks for partner/midwives/doula
  • Camera 
  • Maternity notes and birth plan to hand to midwife upon arrival
  • Packed Birth Bag – in case you need to transfer

POST-BIRTH NEEDS

Consider things that you may need as soon as baby arrives. 

  • Blanket for you and baby
  • Post-birth food and drink to restore energy levels
  • A change of clothes ready to put on after a bath/shower
  • Clothing for baby 
  • Nappies
  • Cotton wool
  • Maternity pads
  • Large comfortable underwear

In the UK home birth is an option for all, including those with more complex pregnancies. It is important that you choose to birth where you feel safe and you can make that choice by researching and informing yourself, basing your decision on facts.

Are you planning a home birth? If there is anything else you’d like to know, if so please feel free to leave me a comment below.

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: KIM

FIRST TIME MUM, BIRTH CENTRE, VAGINAL BIRTH

Kim is a first time mum who had her baby in the Birthing Centre at 40+5 weeks. During pregnancy she had planned to have an elective cesarean, but after using hypnobirthing she completely changed her attitude towards birth and went on to have a gentle, water birth with the support of her husband. Her words at the end covered me in goosebumps, as I can relate to that same feeling of meeting my babies for the first time.

“At 5 days overdue I was beginning to feel a little fed up with being pregnant… feeling massive and uncomfortable! The past few weeks had been 30 degrees plus so life was hot! Finally, on Saturday evening, I went in to latent labour. I had a backache that was helped with a hot water bottle but struggled to sleep as waves of sensation were beginning in my lower tummy and surging round to my back and distracting me. The feeling was coming regularly every 5 minutes or so. My baby was extremely active and having a good wiggle about! However, despite feeling surges, they weren’t particularly painful, more like an ‘intensity’ and though I couldn’t sleep much, I didn’t feel pain or panic. I used my rainbow relaxation hypnobirthing track to get some decent rest and managed to doze a little.

The surges continued through the night but the intensity and frequency didn’t really change so the next morning I called the hospital and they agreed that it sounded like early labour – they advised me to call back in when things had progressed a little more. Annoyingly, the surges actually eased off and disappeared for a few hours that morning and I was dreading a false start. However, a little walk to the coffee shop seemed to get things going again. I could feel a lot of pressure from the baby so walking home again was comically slow! The surges came back with more intensity by the evening, beginning at 5 minute intervals again, and the hypnobirthing calm breathing I had learnt really had a chance to help.

I still wouldn’t describe it as painful at this point but did have to use my focus to breathe through the surges of intensity. We were expecting a long process, so tried to distract ourselves by watching TV, I even made a muesli from scratch so our cupboards were well stocked!

As the surges became stronger and I needed to focus more on the breathing and relaxation strategies I decided to have a bath, which instantly relieved some of the pressure I was feeling. Craig timed my surges and rather suddenly we found they were coming less than 3 minutes apart! Craig called the hospital and they said to come on in. Luckily there was no traffic at this time of night so the journey only took just over 10 minutes, but I had 5 or 6 contractions on the way – which were less comfortable in the car! Sitting down definitely increased the intensity so I decided to walk around to the birth suite rather than take a wheelchair so getting from the car park to the room took as long again! I think staying mobile was one of the main factors in keeping things moving and helping my baby along. 

“My body totally took over
and I could feel the natural expulsive reflex kick in.”

Our room on the Mendip Birth Suite at Southmead had been prepared fantastically well – low level lighting, relaxing music on, fairy lights around the room (which I only noticed after the birth!) Our midwife was amazing and I think a little surprised to discover I was already 5cm dilated as at this point I was calm and relaxed- I had to focus and breathe through the contractions but they were still manageable. The midwife filled the pool and as soon as I got in, things really began to speed along. Almost immediately I entered the ‘transition’ phase and at this point began to struggle quite a bit more. My body totally took over and I could feel the natural expulsive reflex kick in – it was an utterly overwhelming feeling to feel your body taking charge regardless of the psychological need to stop it happening! Certainly at this point I found it much harder to focus on the breathing techniques, but Craig really came in to his role at this point and supported me with encouragement and touch. He was a great advocate for me and discussed pain relief, which I was of course too late for by now, so I only had gas and air. Craig kept reminding me how to breathe it for the best effects and the sound of the air through the pipe was great at helping me slow down the breath again.

I had some surges where I could distinctly feel the baby come down and then go back up – the midwife explained everything that was happening and reassured me this was ok and was in fact helpful for my body. When the baby eventually crowned and her head was out I could feel her looking around the pool, the most surreal and fantastical moment of the whole birth – a feeling I will never forget, and then with the next surge she was born in the birth pool. She came straight to my chest and I burst in to tears.

From our arrival at hospital the birthing process had been less than 3 hours and I had only been in the birthing phase about an hour and a half, most of the time in the pool. We had not even had time to put the Stephen Halpern relaxation music on or the rainbow relaxation track! From the re instigation of the surges on Sunday evening my active labour had been only 10 hours. I have no doubt that my calm approach had helped things progress quickly and the breathing techniques made the surges far less ‘painful’ through most of the process. I could not deny the overwhelm of the birthing phase but am amazed at how my body just knew what to at this point and how quickly the whole process was over and how well I had been able to cope with the majority of the birth.

“We knew each other already!”

Meeting Eadie for the first time was the best experience of my life – from that very first second of looking in her eyes, I could see another soul looking back at me. Not a baby, but a human spirit. That was not something I had expected – we knew each other already! 

(Another important note – Craig had been helping me with perineal massage over the previous weeks and the midwife was astounded to report that I had only grazes with no tears and no need for stitches. So though it was not sexy, I would definitely recommend this practice as well ladies!)”

If you had a positive birth experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Please send your story and any pictures you’d like to include to info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk.